She met a man who made tiny sailing ships inside glass bottles. He spoke reverently about the models on his shelf: Santa Maria, HMS Victory, Cutty Sark. He liked her to watch the raising of the sails. There was a lot of threading and pulling to get the sails to unfurl.
‘Let sheet fly,’ he cried.
She clapped as the ship rose to full height in the bottle, the white sails taut and spread. He laughed, drew her onto his lap. His hands smelled of glue.
Sometimes she wondered why a grown man would want to build such miniature things. ‘Don’t you want to travel?’ she said, ‘Don’t you want to broaden your horizons?’ He slid his hand up her skirt. ‘For sure,’ he said.
When he began painting sea scenes on a grain of rice she refused to watch anymore.
She stood by the window, began waving her arms. It wasn’t exactly a Mayday, more of a Pan-Pan; she wasn’t sinking, but she did need assistance.
Outside the wind had begun to pick up. A noise like the sea roared through the trees. The house shook, the ships in the bottles rose and fell.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Frankie McMillan is the author of four books, the most recent of which, My Mother and the Hungarians and other small fictions (Canterbury University Press) was longlisted for the 2017 Ockham New Zealand Book Awards. She co-edited Bonsai: best small stories from Aotearoa New Zealand (CUP, 2018).